Six Simple Good Gut Health Recipes For Love Your Gut Week

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Spinach and Potato Cakes

Potato cakes topped with a runny poached egg make a delicious, substantial breakfast. You can add as many ‘trimmings’ as you like – tomatoes, mushrooms, or even some smoked salmon.

There are lots of gut-friendly, nutritious ingredients in this meal. Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are excellent sources of dietary fibre, as well as polyphenols.

Polyphenols and fibre are known to increase the diversity of the gut microbiota which in turn stimulates the production of different bacterial metabolites. These metabolites include short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate that help to protect the intestinal wall. Butyrate is important for the health of cells in the colon[6]. Cooked potatoes are an excellent prebiotic food for gut bacteria. When potatoes are cooked and cooled some of the starch crystallises, making it more resistant to human digestion in the small intestine. As this starch reaches the colon it is also used by bacteria to create butyrate which can help keep cells in the colon healthy[7].

Preparation – 10 min

Cooking time – 20 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the spinach and potato cakes

  • 600g potatoes, e.g. Maris Piper or King Edwards peeled, chopped into small chunks about 2cm square
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200g spinach
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ground black pepper

To serve

  • 12 (100g) cherry tomatoes
  • 8 (100g) small mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g kale, ready prepared
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with boiling water from a kettle, then simmer for 10 minutes until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a medium frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and translucent.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked, drain well and reserve a little of the cooking water. Leave to cool slightly and then return the potatoes to the pan. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add a little of the reserved cooking water to the mash if you need to loosen it a bit.
  4. Put the spinach in a large colander, resting over a bowl. Pour over boiling water from a kettle to wilt it. Press the spinach into the colander with the back of a spoon, squeezing out as much water as possible.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, mix the mashed potatoes, onion and spinach with the ground nutmeg and a generous pinch of pepper.
  6. Form the mixture into 8 even sized cakes approximately 8cm across. Use a pastry cutter to help shape the potato cakes if you have one to hand.
  7. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the cakes, 4 at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side until they have a bit of a crust, then carefully lift onto a baking tray in a single layer. You may need to add more oil to the pan. When all are fried, place the potato cakes in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile cook the kale by plunging into boiling water for between 5-7 minutes, until tender to the bite. Place the mushrooms and tomatoes in a non-stick pan and drizzle with olive oil. Cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  9. For the poached eggs, fill a large saucepan or large deep frying pan with water and bring it to a very gentle simmer – the water should barely be moving. Crack the eggs into the water and poach without touching for 3-4 minutes. Cook the eggs two at a time. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  10. Serve 2 potato cakes per person topped with an egg, tomatoes, mushrooms and kale alongside. Sprinkle with a little parsley to serve.

Alternative serving suggestion

Give the potato cakes a spicy twist by replacing the nutmeg with 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds, toasted in a dry pan, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground turmeric. Add these spices to the mashed potato before shaping and cooking.

Cook tips

  • Leave one of the potatoes unpeeled. This increases the fibre content of the potato cakes, without altering the texture too much.
  • Poached eggs will rest happily on a warm saucer giving you time to poach successive eggs to serve at the same time.
  • Use really fresh eggs when poaching. The white holds together better.
  • If you are short of time just make the potato cakes and top with a poached egg.
  • Making potato cakes is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.
  • Place any extra potato cakes in a sealed food box and freeze for later.

Greek Style Tomato and Bean Stew

This is a delicious, one pot, vegetarian dish which can be scaled up to feed a crowd. It also improves once cooked if left for a while before eating.

This stew contains a glorious mix of vegetables which are known to promote gut health. Eating a diverse range of plant foods increases the variety of beneficial microbes in the gut. Gut microbes are key to supporting many aspects of human health including immune, metabolic and neurological functions. Olive oil can have positive effects on gut microbiota due to the high levels of polyphenols they contain. Bacteria in the gut can transform polyphenols into useful biologically active compounds that influence the body’s immune system and many other aspects of health. Research has shown eating a moderate amount of cheese can increase Bifidobacteria, which are known for their positive health benefits through their metabolic activities[10]

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g tins butter beans drained and rinsed
  • 300g green beans, ends trimmed
  • juice and zest of half a lemon
  • 150g crumbled feta
  • 30g pine nuts

Method

  1. Place the onion in a large, wide pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, spices and herbs, reserving a little of the parsley to finish the dish.
  2. Turn up the heat and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée allowing the stew to come up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the butter beans, green beans, lemon zest and lemon juice, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Cover the pan at this stage if you can otherwise stir to ensure the green beans cook through.
  3. Serve the tomato and bean stew in bowls with crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts and a sprinkling of parsley.
  4. Alternative serving suggestion
  5. Any green vegetable can be substituted for the green beans, for example, broccoli spears or asparagus.
  6. This dish can be part of a tapas-style meal served with bowls of freshly cooked prawns or chicken.

Cooks tips

  • Use 500g of chopped fresh tomatoes instead of tinned chopped tomatoes.
  • Any leftovers from this dish can be eaten the following day as the flavours improve over time

Simple Red Lentil Dal

Dal is a staple food of the Indian sub-continent. It is made from lentils that do not need pre-soaking. It is one of the fastest, most delicious and economic meals you can prepare. The beauty of this dish is it can be eaten simply or dressed up with a variety of accompaniments, for a special occasion.

This is a nutritious and sustaining dish that promotes gut health. Lentils are the key ingredient and are rich in fibre and contain a type of carbohydrate known as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Both fibre and GOS promote the growth of a range of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract providing a number of benefits including a reduced risk of colorectal and heart disease. Spinach, tomatoes, onion and garlic also contain dietary fibre.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is widely used as a spice and an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine. The rhizome of ginger has been shown in clinical studies to help relieve gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and vomiting.

Turmeric contains curcumin which has been shown to change the balance in favours the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut over that of pathogenic bacteria.

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 500g peeled and de-seeded butternut squash (approximately half), cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 5 regular tomatoes (150g) fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 fresh, long, mild red chilli, deseeded
  • 225g dried red lentils
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves to serve

Method

  1. Sweat the onion and butternut squash with a little oil for 10 minutes in a covered saucepan or large lidded frying pan. They should begin to caramelise. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Cut the chilli in half lengthways and finely chop half. Add this to the saucepan. Cut the other half of the chilli into thin strips and reserve to finish the dish.
  2. Add the red lentils and 1 litre of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes. Add the spinach, which just needs to wilt for 2 minutes. The dal should be thick and the butternut squash tender.
  3. Add a little oil to a frying pan and quickly sauté the strips of chilli. Serve the dal in bowls scattered with coriander and strips of chilli. Serve with brown rice or flatbread and chutney on the side.
  4. Alternative serving suggestion
  5. Peas can be added to the dal instead of spinach
  6. Aubergines can be substituted for the butternut squash
  7. Serve as part of a meal with other side dishes such as aubergine curry or chicken curry

Cooks tips

  • Double the quantity of this recipe so there are extra portions to put in the freezer. Dal defrosts quickly in a microwave and will provide a quick nutritious ready meal.
  • A simple dal can be made without butternut squash or spinach if time and ingredients are in short supply.
  • The classic way to dress up a dal is to pour over a tarka just before serving. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add 2 banana shallots finely sliced, a chopped green chilli and a tsp of chopped garlic and cook for 5 minutes; add 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp garum masala and cook for a minute before pouring over the dal.
  • To add a little richness to the dal, add a swirl of coconut milk, stir through the dal and serve.

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Chicken Schnitzel with Fennel, Lettuce, Green Lentils and Radish Salad

A schnitzel is a piece of meat which has been pounded into a thin slice so it will cook quickly. Usually, schnitzels are fried but this chicken version is baked with just a drizzle of olive oil making it lower in fat while keeping the crisp breadcrumb coating.

The coating is made from wholemeal breadcrumbs which increases the fibre content of the dish. Green lentils in the salad also add fibre as well as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). These GOS and fibre promote the growth of a range of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine providing benefits associated with having a healthy population of gut bacteria including a reduced risk of colorectal disease.

Fennel contains dietary fibre and also a type of carbohydrate called fructo-oligosaccharide or fructans. These carbohydrates resist digestion in the small intestine and make their way further down the gut where they provide nourishment for healthy bacteria to grow and thrive.

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 x 125g small free-range skinned chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g wholemeal bread, crusts removed
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
  • For the salad
  • 1 small crisp lettuce, leaves torn into small pieces
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 10 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 100g canned green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6

Place each chicken breast, one at a time, on a chopping board designated for meat. Cover with a piece of baking paper and then use a rolling pin to beat the chicken until it is about 1.5cm thick all over. Place the chicken breasts on a lightly oiled baking tray.

Tear up the bread and place in a food processor together with the parsley and garlic. Process for 30 seconds or until the bread has formed breadcrumbs and the parsley and garlic are finely chopped. Empty the breadcrumbs into a bowl. Cut the lemon in half lengthways. Zest one half of the lemon and add it to the breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix well. Press the breadcrumbs onto the chicken pieces to form a coating. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and place on a baking sheet

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. To check the chicken is cooked – cut through a piece of the chicken to check there is no pink showing and the flesh is tender.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the torn lettuce pieces, sliced fennel and radishes in a serving bowl. Scatter in the green lentils. Place the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice over the salad and toss the ingredients together. Serve the chicken breasts with a side of salad.

Alternative serving suggestion

This herb flavoured breadcrumb topping can be used to coat pieces of white fish such as cod, hake or haddock before baking for 15 minutes

Serve the chicken with a selection of steamed vegetables such as carrots, new potatoes and peas

Cooks tips

Get ahead by preparing the chicken up to 5 hours before cooking. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook.

Use a ready-made dressing for the salad if you are short of time.

Remember to swab down worksurfaces, chopping boards and any equipment used after preparing raw chicken.

Roast Cod and Mediterranean Vegetable Tray Bake

This colourful dish epitomises all that is healthy about the Mediterranean diet. Colourful vegetables, fish, olive oil and pulses.

It is important to include a diverse range of colourful vegetables in the diet not only because they contain vitamins and minerals but also phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds that give plants their rich colours as well as their distinctive tastes and aromas and many of them can increase the diversity of the microbes in our gut and benefit many aspects of our health.

Chickpeas are a type of pulse and an important source of fibre and a group of carbohydrates called galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). These carbohydrates promote the growth of a range of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract[8]. A healthy population of gut bacteria helps to reduce the risk of colorectal disease[9].

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, peeled
  • 800g mixed peppers (yellow, red, orange), cut in half and deseeded
  • 16 (200g) cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g tinned chickpeas
  • 4 cod fillets, skinless, around 125g each

For the basil oil

  • 1 25g pack of fresh basil (25g)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (25g)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7

  1. Cut each red onion into 8 wedges. Slice the peppers into 10cm strips approximately 1cm wide and place in a roasting tray. Add the cherry tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and with your hands’ mix together so the vegetables are coated with a thin film of oil.
  2. Place the vegetables in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. They should be soft and just beginning to caramelise. Remove from the oven and stir through the chickpeas. Place the four pieces of cod onto of the vegetables and return to the oven. Cook for a further 10–15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the basil oil. Place all the ingredients for the basil oil in a food processor and process for approx. 20 seconds, until smooth. Season to taste.
  4. Remove the baking tray from the oven and drizzle with the basil oil before serving. Serve with chunks of crusty bread.
  5. Alternative serving suggestion
  6. Fresh salmon pieces could be used instead of cod.
  7. Other vegetables could be used either instead of or together with peppers, for example, aubergines, courgettes and sweet potatoes.

Cook tips

  • Cut the vegetables up into small even pieces so they cook quickly.
  • If you are short of time use ready made fresh pesto to finish the dish.
  • Get ahead and cook the vegetables up to 4 hours before cooking the fish. Then just warm through the vegetables in the oven, top with the fish and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse

This recipe combines just four key ingredients – ripe bananas, avocados, almond butter and cocoa powder. When these ingredients are whisked together their natural textures and flavours form a delicious light and velvety chocolate mousse.

Bananas contain dietary fibre that helps nutrients move through the gut. They also contain complex carbohydrates known as fructo-oligosaccharides, that help healthy gut bacteria to thrive[3]. Almonds are rich in prebiotics including dietary fibre which is metabolised by bacteria in the gut and play an important part in keeping us healthy[4]. Cocoa powder is rich in polyphenols[5], which the gut bacteria can metabolise into bioactive compounds which have a number of positive effects in the body including helping the immune system function well.

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – none

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 small ripe avocados
  • 80g almond butter (rough or smooth)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 100g of fresh berries i.e. raspberries, blueberries, strawberries

Method

  1. Peel and roughly chop the bananas. Cut the avocados in half, remove the stones and scrape the flesh from the skin.
  2. Place the bananas and avocado in the bowl of a food processor. Add the almond butter, cocoa powder and vanilla essence. Process these ingredients for 30 seconds or until you have a smooth puree.
  3. Divide the chocolate mousse into serving bowls or glasses and top with berries.
  4. Alternative serving suggestion
  5. This chocolate mousse could be used as a dip with biscuits as a snack, or as a topping for a cake.

Cook tips

Good quality peanut butter can be used instead of almond butter
Bananas and avocados need to be ripe to add natural sweetness and velvety smoothness to this dish
To check an avocado is ripe peel back the small stem at the top of the avocado. If it comes away easily and it is green underneath the avocado is ripe and ready to eat.

Recipes By Dr Joan Ransley for Love Your Gut.

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